Unicorns. Leprechauns. Krakens. Loch Ness monster. Sleep training. All of these things are mythical figments of someone’s imagination.
There are so many things I expected out of parenthood, like, for my kid to be as awesome and also awkwardly weird as I am. Or for him to look a little bit like me. Or to have to handle bodily excretions without throwing up on the baby. Those things I expected. What no one told me is that he won’t necessarily conform to the standard of childhood development that science and western medicine set forth. Maybe my kid is just the exception to the rule? Who’s to say… what I do know is that there are a lot more things I didn’t expect to happen that ARE happening than things I did expect that are NOT happening. So, here’s my top 10 list of myths of mom-dom
1.) Breastfeeding is easy and natural- LIES! La Leche League, you sit on a throne of lies! Not only did it not feel natural, it absolutely hurt. My son was born tongue tied, but the doctors didn’t let me know that until he had refused to nurse for about two weeks, lost over 10% of his birth weight, and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Even after having multiple consultations with multiple different lactation consultants, we were still having trouble, and my husband was a lifesaver- I would have given up on breastfeeding had it not been for his help and support. That coupled with thrush in myself and my son, it was like passing razor blades through my breast into a paper shredder. He did end up having a frenectomy and things got much better after that, but then the issue became being able to pump and maintain supply while working full-time. The answer to that conundrum ended up being that I quit my job to stay home with him and there’s been a lot less stress on everyone in the family since then. But that’s not an option for every mom. A little bit more transparency about the frequent issues and complications breastfeeding moms face and less fairy-tale images of mothers lovingly nursing their beautiful babies would have been preferred.
2.) Sleep training- Am I just a terrible mother? Why does my kid not sleep through the night?? It doesn’t matter if I feed him right before he goes to bed, and make sure he has on the most absorbant diaper on the face of the earth, and that he’s comfortable… nothing. I’ve tried the cry it out method… two weeks of that made me want to post an ad for a handsome baby boy on craigslist… or at the very least, take a sleep-cation and let him stay with my sister. We tried the opposite of that, in letting him sleep in our room and responding immediately to his cries (this we did from birth to about 3 months) We’ve tried delayed gratification in checking on him when he cries, we’ve weaned him off breastmilk, we’ve done literally everything we can think of and followed all the advice on forums that we could find. His sleep patterns are just inconsistent. Some nights, he gets and unbroken 8 hours. Other nights, he just screams for no apparent reason for 3 hours at a time. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be well rested.
3.) Schedules- As soon as we get in to a routine, something changes and then we’re back at square one. I’m constantly having to relearn his patterns and maintain some consistency in his meal times, naps, baths, diaper changes, and bedtimes. I have a rough guide line, but no schedule has remained relevant to us for more than about a month.
4.) Weaning- Weaning happened pretty abruptly for us. My son was still nursing, and I was planning on doing so until at least a year old, but then my body decided otherwise. My hormones shifted and my menstrual cycle came back and bye-bye milk supply! This was a nightmare. He still slams his face into my chest or yanks my shirt in public. I feel bad for the little man, but he does enjoy the solid foods he’s been introduced to, and in spite of having to introduce them sooner than I would have preferred, he’s doing fairly well with a lot less allergy symptoms than I initially expected.
5.) Teething- I sort of expected the swollen gums and runny nose and whininess to result in an eventual tooth. Still nothing. He’s apparently been “teething” since he was about 4 months. 5 months later, and still no teeth. This complicates the self-feeding thing because how is he supposed to eat things he can’t chew?? So he’s still on mostly mushy foods, which is interesting from a nutritional standpoint. I feel like I’m trying extra hard to make sure all his meals are well-balanced and not just bananas and rice cereal. He does eat a variety of colors and veggies and proteins, but they all require a certain degree of mushing.
6.) Walking- it took him forever to learn how to crawl and sit up on his own, so I guess the natural progression would be that it takes him a while longer than most to learn to walk. Moms and grandmas always ask us if he’s reached ___________ milestone yet… we smile and say, not quite, but it shouldn’t be long now. I’m in no hurry to rush him. His little brain will process gross motor ambulation whenever its ready and not before. That’s not to say I don’t encourage him along, I just don’t have expectations or a timeline to see certain developments. I’m sure this will eventually drive public school systems crazy, but the way I see it, it’s more important for him to figure out life on his own with my guidance and supervision than for me to “spoon feed” him everything or rush him in to things he’s not ready for.
7.) Bathtimes- My kid must be part feline. He does NOT like the water. I had to daily hold his hand under running water for him to learn that it wasn’t going to hurt him and that bath time is actually a fun splashy time. He’s gotten a lot better, but he still doesn’t like the active cleaning part of the bath, which is why I do it with the speed and dexterity of a professional rubix cube solver. WashhairwashfacewashbuttrinseoffDONE! Try to keep the screaming to a minimum and it’s taken me a few tries, but I’ve finally developed a system in which no water enters his eyes or nose. HUZZAH!
8.) Structured play times- He’s a 9 month old. He has no interest in sitting still. So I work with that. One of our favorite games to play is stacking up towers of foam yoga blocks that he then crawls into like a little bulldozer. It’s hilarious to watch, and he loves it. We call it “stacks.” He’s also a climber, which is weird to me because he can’t even walk unassisted yet, but somehow he manages to scale furniture and Rubbermaid tubs…? What the crap?? I’m totally unprepared for the inevitable falls that happen with a child prone to climbing.
9.) Diaper changes- he hates these too… he’s started trying to flip himself off the changing table. Then I have this poopy stark naked little dude climbing all over everything, knocking down wipes and throwing baby powder all over the room till it looks like Christmas. I’ve tried giving him a toy to hold, but they just get thrown (usually at my face) We have a stance on discipline in which we aren’t opposed to disciplinary spanking, but at this point, he barely understands words, let alone why he is getting spanked. So, we’re holding off on the spanking, because he is only 9 months old. So we talk to him, tell him to sit still, and offer distractions. And until he is more cognizant of what we’re telling him to do, I think that’s a fine methodology.
10.) Talking- I guess he has “words.” They all sound like tribal tongue clicks and raspberry sounds (pfffffffffft.) He says “dada” and “Buhbuhbuh” and “waaaaaaah” but as far as we can tell, “dada” means everything from mom, dad, dog, to food, diaper, and I just get called “XCkzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” again, we talk to him and encourage his speech patterns, but I’m not discouraged or disappointed. His little brain will process the English language when he’s good and ready. And I will not underestimate the level to which he observes and understands until the point in time he’s ready to talk. He does recognize peanut butter on sight and LOVES it, probably more than I do…which is saying something, because I’m a long time PB addict.
Maybe these are normal things to experience as a parent, and maybe my kid is just on the weirder end of the spectrum. I’m okay with it either way, because as a parent, you don’t get to choose your child, and they don’t get to choose you. You’re stuck with each other! And I love him no matter what.